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Posts tagged: StrikeForce

RMA Engages Farmers at Annual Meeting of Southern Grassroots Cooperatives

Michael Alston speaking

Michael Alston speaking about the safety net RMA offers farmers and ranchers through crop insurance.

Recently, I had the honor of representing USDA at the annual Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund (FSCLA) annual meeting in Epes, Ala. It gave me a chance to speak with a phenomenal group of hardworking farmers and ranchers, to hear their stories and share some of the improvements that USDA, under the Obama Administration, has put in place to help uproot inequality. Over the past eight years, we’ve taken steps to change the culture of USDA to ensure all Americans who come to us for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

As I stepped to the podium and looked out at a crowd of faces that resembled mine, I thought back to my early childhood growing up on my parent’s farm.  I remembered the hardships they endured trying to sustain a life for me and my siblings, and I wished that I could have offered the same information and opportunities to them as I was about to provide to the room full of individuals at the meeting. Read more »

Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners. Read more »

Income Inequality: A Growing Threat to Eliminating Rural Child Poverty

Two young boys enjoying lunch near their home in Knox County, Ky

Two young boys enjoy lunch near their home in Knox County, KY.

Rural child poverty fell by 3 percentage points from 2012 to 2014. Over the past seven years, USDA and the Obama Administration have taken action to address the root causes and reduce the devastating effects of rural child poverty.  As a record streak of private sector job creation has cut nationwide unemployment in half, to 5 percent, average incomes for rural and urban families alike climbed nearly 6 percent in the last two years of data, returning to 2003 levels.  While we have made important progress in increasing incomes and reducing the rural child poverty rate, it remains unacceptable that 1.5 million children in rural America – 23.7 percent of all rural youth – live in poverty. Read more »

Agriculture Saved A Veteran’s Life

Eric Grandon and his family selling their local food products at a Farmer's Market

Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.

Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer.  He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »

Kentucky “Landowner of the Year” Makes Conservation a Way of Life

Burchel Blevins holding his Landowner of the Year award

Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.

“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.

Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »

Second-Generation Builds on a Father’s Legacy of Sustainability at Colvine Bison

Bobbi and Allen Lester with their daughter in front of their farm

Bison farmers Bobbi and Allen with their daughter in front of the family-run farm. Photo: Dastina Wallace.

Bison farmer Bobbi Lester cares for the land with just as much passion and love as her father. As a little girl growing up on the ranch in southern Delaware, she remembers learning the ropes of bison farming, often traveling with him to regional and national bison conferences. When Bobbi Lester’s father, Robert Collins, lost his battle to cancer in 2012, Bobbi, along with her husband Allen, stepped up to continue farming the way he would have wanted—as a family.

Bobbi recalls how her dad started with just three heifers and a bull on 88 acres in Greenwood, Delaware, and grew into the herd of 65 bison.

“Because of the bison’s population decline 30 years ago, Collins originally planned to breed the bison,” said Bobbi. Read more »